Cancer Focus alarmed at continued failure to meet cancer waiting time targets
Local charity Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has responded with alarm to the Department of Health’s latest quarterly cancer waiting times report (April – June 2022).
Figures published today, Thursday 29 September, rebeals key waiting time targets continued to be missed by the NHS which has struggling due to years of underfunding, the impact of pandemic pressures and the lack of a fully functioning local Executive.
Key facts and figures are listed below:
Waiting times for first treatment following an urgent GP referral for suspect cancer (62 day target)
In June 2022, 419 patients commenced their first treatment for cancer following an urgent referral for suspect cancer. Of these, 38.9% (163 patients) started treatment within 62 days, compared with 35.2% (166 of the 472 patients) in May, 39.4% (157 of the 398 patients) in April and 54.2% (243 of the 448 patients) in June 2021.
Waiting times for first definitive treatment following a decision to treat (31 day target)
During June 2022, 877 patients commenced their first treatment for cancer following a decision to treat being taken. Of these, 87.9% (771) started treatment within 31 days, compared with 85.8% (825 of the 962 patients) in May, 84.9% (697 of the 821 patients) in April and 93.4% (902 of the 966 patients) in June 2021.
Patients first seen following an urgent referral for suspect breast cancer (14 day target)
During June 2022, 1,311 patients were seen by a breast cancer specialist for a first assessment following an urgent referral for suspect breast cancer. Of these, 58.2% (763) were seen within 14 days, compared with 50.7% (679 of the 1,338 patients) in May, 46.6% (566 of the 1,214 patients) in April and 71.2% (1,129 of the 1,586 patients) in June 2021.
Referrals for suspect breast cancer
In June 2022, 1,939 new referrals for suspect breast cancer were received; this compares to 2,138 in May, 1,861 in April and 2,124 in June 2021. Referrals for suspect breast cancer can be for advice, assessment or both.
Of those new referrals for suspect breast cancer in June 2022, 1,314 (67.8%) were classified as urgent.
Commenting on the latest waiting time data, Richard Spratt, CEO of Cancer Focus NI said:
“We are alarmed that yet again, despite the tireless efforts of health service staff, the Department’s own waiting time targets have not been met. This is not simply about statistics. It’s about the health and wellbeing of real people who must cope as they wait for a delayed diagnostic test or treatment.
"As Cancer Focus NI continues to support local patients and their families through their cancer journeys, we hear of the impact of these delays daily. These delays can be devastating. Our politicians must know by now that delays to diagnosis and treatment make it more difficult to treat cancer successfully and we need to have governance in place.
"The continued lack of an Executive at Stormont exacerbates these delays. It has created uncertainty around the budgetary planning necessary to implement the new Cancer Strategy. Cancer Focus NI along with other organisations worked very hard to achieve the Cancer Strategy and are determined that it will be implemented on time and in full. The public is increasingly frustrated and demands an urgent commitment from all Ministers to guarantee recurring funding to deliver the Strategy’s recommendations immediately. This is the central focus of our public affairs work. By facilitating the Assembly’s All-Party Group on Cancer (APGC) we ensure that our MLAs understand the full impact of political inaction on these alarming cancer waiting times.”
Cancer Focus NI offers therapeutic cancer support to local patients and their families. If you have any concerns about your health, speak to your GP as soon as possible. Visit www.cancerfocusni.org/symptoms for more information on common signs and symptoms of cancer.
For information on the charity’s support:
services visit www.cancerfocusni.org/support.